quarta-feira, 31 de julho de 2013

Hans-Joachim Voth and Mauricio Drelichman: Banks should learn from Habsburg Spain

Investors in the volatile debt of Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy can be forgiven a sense of déjà vu. The history of sovereign debt is strewn with promises broken, creditors losing their shirts (and sometimes literally their heads) and, during defaults, economic malaise. So does the long, melancholy history of government borrowing offer any lessons for policy makers today?
Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, in their classic study of eight centuries of financial crises, argue that the repeated folly of investors is the cause of sovereign debt problems. After a few good years, creditors forget the risks, lend recklessly, then end up snared in a default. The cycle soon restarts as new investors convince themselves “this time is different”.
At the dawn of sovereign lending, King Philip II of Spain – ruler between 1556 and 1598 of the only superpower of his age – signed hundreds of loan contracts. He also became the first serial defaulter, halting payments four times. The story of a powerful monarch able to convince creditors to lend as much as 60 per cent of gross domestic product while defaulting again and again offers useful insights into how the bargain can be improved.
Sovereign debt crises today “hurt” in three ways. First, when bond markets panic and yields rise in a downturn, taxes are raised and spending is cut. Austerity aggravates the slump. Second, a country’s banking system typically implodes. Third, the return to debt markets is often long delayed; state employees are sacked, contractors go unpaid, and the economic slump deepens.
By contrast, Genoese lenders to Philip II created a safe and stable sovereign borrowing system. It survived shocks such as the failed 1588 invasion of England with the Armada. Most bankers lent to the king for decades; no lender lost money in the long term. Financiers simply charged higher rates in normal times to compensate for the risks during crises.
When shocks hit – such as a combination of low silver revenues and a costly war against the Ottomans – debt contracts were not expected to be honoured to the letter. Renegotiations were concluded fast – in 12 to 18 months, compared with today’s average of six to seven years. “Haircuts” for investors, from 20 to 40 per cent, were moderate. Lending resumed promptly.
Even in normal times, lenders and borrowers shared risk effectively. A large fraction of Philip II’s short-term debt was “state contingent” – repayment terms and interest rates were automatically adjusted in line with fiscal conditions. In bad times – when the silver fleet from the Americas was small, say – the king either repaid less or extended the maturity of a loan. This avoided the need to let soldiers go unpaid.
Automatic loan modification enabled Spain to avoid negative feedback loops such as those seen in southern Europe today, with falling tax revenue leading to austerity and hence an even more severe slump. The ability to write state-contingent debt using an easily observed indicator of fiscal health, such as the arrival of a fleet, was crucial. In modern debt markets, verifiable indicators such as value added tax receipts, certified economic growth figures or world oil prices could be used as measures of fiscal strength.
The practices of the bankers, too, offer lessons for today. Loans were expensive and profits high. The Genoese absorbed losses easily because of their low leverage. Instead of borrowing themselves or taking deposits (as earlier competitors had done), they mostly financed themselves with equity. In addition, they sold the lion’s share of each loan on to other investors. Profits and losses were then distributed proportionately. During crises, everyone suffered, but no toxic concentration of risk threatened the bankers’ survival. In other words, risk transfers that failed during the recent subprime crisis worked well in the 16th century.
Repeated cycles of lending and default, contrary to common belief, are not a sign of bankers’ stupidity. Often, creditors have realised that “next time will be the same”, and prepared themselves accordingly. They have provided effective insurance to the sovereign, and absorbed losses with thick equity cushions. The age of the galleon produced effective risk-sharing and a stable banking system; the age of the internet and jet travel is failing to do the same.

Hans-Joachim Voth and Mauricio Drelichman, who teach economic history in Barcelona and Vancouver, are the authors of the forthcoming ‘Lending to the Borrower from Hell’.

Fonte: FT

terça-feira, 30 de julho de 2013

Ben Judah: Israelis need to be shaken out of their escapism

Israelis think they are realists. They are not. Israelis are escapists – in the hipster bars of Tel Aviv, in its high-tech start-up clusters, in multi-month South American backpacking. And that’s only the secular Jews. Jewish fundamentalists escape in utopian dreams, hilltop forts, in lustful looks into a dusty horizon where they glimpse a kingdom from the Jordan to the sea that only their great-great grandchildren might see.
Escapism is all about forgetting tomorrow. Political escapism is thinking that colonising the West Bank does not risk Israel’s future. Like millions of heavy smokers, Israelis are ignoring the slowly spreading threats to their survival that this activity entails.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have resumed in Washington. Against the backdrop of the Syrian slaughter, preventing a third Palestinian intifada linking up
with the savagery over the Golan Heights is pure necessity. But you would not realise it talking to Israelis enjoying the summer as if the Arabs do not matter at all.
This is a country unplugged. There is a secular Tel Aviv bubble where the status quo feels far away. Then there is a religious Jerusalem bubble, where to fundamentalists in all their fervour the status quo seems a small price to pay. This political escapism is what is holding Israel back from uprooting its settlers from the West Bank. Most Israelis hold the simple belief that, should the current round of peace talks fail, it does not even matter.
Failed talks should terrify Israel. Each intifada has killed more than the last – because the occupation has become exponentially expensive. In the 1970s, there was no need for walls or fortifications. Today, Israel is not safe from suicide bombers without trenches and watchtowers.
The occupation has become more intensive as the Israeli demographic advantage has eroded. In the 1970s, Jews made up about 70 per cent of historic Palestine. But in the 2010s Jews add up to, at a stretch, half.
The occupation needs future conscripts Israel does not have. While the Palestinian population has boomed, the percentage of Jewish Israelis is falling – from 89 per cent in 1958 to just 75 per cent today. Who those Jews are is changing, too. By 2060, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics predicts, the ultra-orthodox (who do not serve in the army) could outnumber seculars.
Israel can only escape such state-breaking costs by retrenching now with US support. Knowing all of this makes its collective indifference to the new peace talks chilling.
This escapism has been facilitated, first, by Israel’s economic success. In 2012 the economy expanded 3.1 per cent – a figure the European Central Bank could only dream of. Israel has been a booming economy – growing from $113bn to $242bn between 2002 and 2011. The escapism is also the child of trauma. Virtually all Israeli families began as bedraggled refugees and virtually all Israeli men were shot at as conscripts.
The detachment is a natural reaction to Arab extremism – a desire to live in the moment that a suicide bomber might rip apart. Few foreigners understand that the intifada has turned Israel into a country where, every time there is a loud bang in the street, everyone freezes then laughs and moves on.
Escapism is what makes Tel Aviv such a fun place to be young – but it is now endangering Israel’s future. Convinced they are realists, the median Israeli believes the Palestinians will again reject their peace offer and that, if so, they can just collectively shrug.
Israelis also believe that, if the Israeli Defense Forces unilaterally retreat over the Green Line between them and the West Bank, those hills will immediately turn into a larger Gaza. This is a real menace – it would expose Israel’s international airport to paralysing Scud fire.
Therefore, you hear, Israel should stand firm – by doing nothing. And this is where politics escapes reality. Israel’s majority believes that, for security reasons, the military occupation cannot end. But that does not mean the colonisation of the territory of any future Palestinian state (which the Israeli government claims to want) cannot stop.
The urgency of halting this is lost on the majority, however. Israelis do not see the need to uproot the settlers. So, if these talks fail, the west should push to change the facts on the ground. On land, Israel will not compensate the Palestinians with direct withdrawals from Israeli territory; the west should demand settlements go, but let Israeli soldiers stay, before negotiations restart.
Israelis are sure to scoff at such a suggestion. This is why the EU needs to shake them out of their escapism. Brussels needs to do this with tough love and strong messages. It must go further than its recent reaffirmation that EU funding must not end up in the settlements. It must make the price tag for occupation more real. If peace talks fail, Europe will need to wake Israelis up. This should begin with a full boycott of goods made in the settlements. Sanctions would give Israel its first taste of the cost of political escapism: the economic pain of being a global outcast.

Ben Judah is the author of ‘Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In And Out Of Love With Vladimir Putin’

Fonte: FT

segunda-feira, 29 de julho de 2013

Egypt must not rely on its army to bring democracy

O que está acontecendo no Egito é uma vergonha, mas infelizmente não é nenhuma novidade: já vimos este filme varias vezes na America Latina durante a guerra fria. É tentador,mas um grande equivoco, afirmar que o mundo islamico e democracia são incompativeis. Eles, como os latinos americanos no passado, são apenas peões no jogo da alta política internacional que ignoram completamente os valores que afirmam defender. Hipocrisia, somente hiprocrisia...

Scarcely a month after the coup d’état that brought down President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s army, hailed as saviours by millions of citizens fearful of Islamism, seems to be rewriting the terms of transition to an inclusive democracy. After the rapture, the Tamarod (rebellion) movement that repossessed Tahrir Square should brace for a hard landing. Tamarod regrouped the vital forces that brought down Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship in 2011, remobilising against the Brothers’ divisive drive to reshape Egypt in their own image and occupy its buckled institutions with loyal Islamists. But these rebels allied with supporters of the ancien régime they had dreamt of sweeping away.
The army, in the benign narrative of the past month’s turmoil, did its patriotic duty and merely delivered the coup de grâce on behalf of an adoring nation. Egypt would thereby get a second chance to relaunch the revolution. The generals, all starch and sharp creases, and their grasping incompetence during the first stage of the transition from the Mubarak order forgotten, would reboot Egypt.
Always a delusion, that vision was cut to pieces in Saturday’s dawn attack on a Cairo sit-in of Morsi loyalists, which human rights groups suggest was a massacre executed by security forces. After army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on Egyptians on Wednesday last week to take over the streets and give him a “mandate” to confront “violence and potential terrorism”, the scores killed became a chronicle of deaths foretold. Under the old, if implausible script, the army had suspended the constitution and set up a caretaker government to produce an inclusive constitution and a fair electoral law, after which there would be new parliamentary and presidential elections. Now, it seems, Gen Sisi has sensed greatness, giddied by the masses that came out to assist the Brotherhood’s political suicide.
The general’s picture is plastered all over Egypt, and the army, the country’s paramount institution, is swelled by a surge of popular support. Why would he not try to ride this populist wave and maybe, as siren voices in Cairo are starting to hint, even seek the presidency for himself? Even if he does not, the army is clearly determined to secure its power, privileges and prestige in the country’s political and economic affairs – just as it did not just under Mr Mubarak but with Mr Morsi.
The Islamist-inspired constitution that the Brotherhood and its Salafi allies rammed through in December not only enshrined but extended the powers of the military, part of the Morsi government’s misfired attempt to co-opt the “deep state” behind the Mubarak regime and the six decades of army-backed dictatorship that began with Gamal Abdel Nasser, the pan-Arab nationalist titan whose rhetoric Gen Sisi now dimly echoes.
Without Mr Morsi’s preternatural ability to unite his enemies it looks likely that the coalition of liberals and leftists, minorities and secular youth that marched against him will fragment, keeping the general and his military populism centre stage.
Look, for instance, at General Mohamed Ibrahim. He is, paradoxically, a holdover from the last Morsi cabinet but heads an interior ministry being alarmingly revitalised along Mubarak regime lines. On Sunday he claimed the armed forces have “popular support and a legal mandate” to lead Egypt into “a new dawn”. More substantively, Gen Ibrahim has resurrected the political and “religious” crime units of Amn al-Dawla or State Security – the most infamous of the old regime’s secret police agencies, with a vast army of political low-lifes and informers at its command. Disbanded in March 2011, its operatives are suspected by some to be behind several subsequent provocations adding to Egypt’s chronic instability – and now they are back. Is this the transition imagined by the liberals and the left – reconsecrating the security state?
Egypt’s secular forces are in danger of making one of the Brotherhood’s fundamental mistakes: relying on the army rather than their fellow citizens. They keep sloganeering that the army and the people are “one hand”. The security forces are meanwhile criminalising a big slice of society, by shooting Islamists, shutting their media and bringing fanciful charges against Mr Morsi – an elected president if one who failed serial democratic litmus tests – ranging from murder to espionage. If this continues, the generals will give a “martyrdom premium” to Islamists, rarely more than a quarter of the electorate, while secular forces with greater potential support are struggling to crystallise. Driving the Brotherhood underground, moreover, is a sure fire way of inciting the terrorism the army says it is fighting.
It might help to moderate the generals’ ambitions if the US made clear that its annual $1.3bn stipend for the army, sacrosanct since Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, is now contingent on a transition to democracy that includes the now- demonised Islamists. Holding up the delivery of a few jets will not get their attention. They understand the difference between the pro-forma tut-tutting and the nudges and winks encouraging them to get a grip.
The Egypt that is reaching for the future has shown it can mobilise with extraordinary élan. It now needs to match its prowess in the streets by organising to win power at the ballot box, rather than rely on the pharaoh-makers in uniform. The military is not the gateway to a liberal future – and there is room in jail for all its opponents.

David Gardner

Fonte: FT

sexta-feira, 26 de julho de 2013

Let’s Shake Up the Social Sciences

Twenty-five years ago, when I was a graduate student, there were departments of natural science that no longer exist today. Departments of anatomy, histology, biochemistry and physiology have disappeared, replaced by innovative departments of stem-cell biology, systems biology, neurobiology and molecular biophysics. Taking a page from Darwin, the natural sciences are evolving with the times. The perfection of cloning techniques gave rise to stem-cell biology; advances in computer science contributed to systems biology. Whole new fields of inquiry, as well as university departments and majors, owe their existence to fresh discoveries and novel tools.
In contrast, the social sciences have stagnated. They offer essentially the same set of academic departments and disciplines that they have for nearly 100 years: sociology, economics, anthropology, psychology and political science. This is not only boring but also counterproductive, constraining engagement with the scientific cutting edge and stifling the creation of new and useful knowledge. Such inertia reflects an unnecessary insecurity and conservatism, and helps explain why the social sciences don’t enjoy the same prestige as the natural sciences.

One reason citizens, politicians and university donors sometimes lack confidence in the social sciences is that social scientists too often miss the chance to declare victory and move on to new frontiers. Like natural scientists, they should be able to say, “We have figured this topic out to a reasonable degree of certainty, and we are now moving our attention to more exciting areas.” But they do not.

I’m not suggesting that social scientists stop teaching and investigating classic topics like monopoly power, racial profiling and health inequality. But everyone knows that monopoly power is bad for markets, that people are racially biased and that illness is unequally distributed by social class. There are diminishing returns from the continuing study of many such topics. And repeatedly observing these phenomena does not help us fix them.

So social scientists should devote a small palace guard to settled subjects and redeploy most of their forces to new fields like social neuroscience, behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology and social epigenetics, most of which, not coincidentally, lie at the intersection of the natural and social sciences. Behavioral economics, for example, has used psychology to radically reshape classical economics.

Such interdisciplinary efforts are also generating practical insights about fundamental problems like chronic illness, energy conservation, pandemic disease, intergenerational poverty and market panics. For example, a better understanding of the structure and function of human social networks is helping us understand which individuals within social systems have an outsize impact when it comes to the spread of germs or the spread of ideas. As a result, we now have at our disposal new ways to accelerate the adoption of desirable practices as diverse as vaccination in rural villages and seat-belt use among urban schoolchildren.

It is time to create new social science departments that reflect the breadth and complexity of the problems we face as well as the novelty of 21st-century science. These would include departments of biosocial science, network science, neuroeconomics, behavioral genetics and computational social science. Eventually, these departments would themselves be dismantled or transmuted as science continues to advance.

Some recent examples offer a glimpse of the potential. At Yale, the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs applies diverse social sciences to the study of international issues and offers a new major. At Harvard, the sub-discipline of physical anthropology, which increasingly relies on modern genetics, was hived off the anthropology department to make the department of human evolutionary biology. Still, such efforts are generally more like herds splitting up than like new species emerging. We have not yet changed the basic DNA of the social sciences. Failure to do so might even result in having the natural sciences co-opt topics rightly and beneficially in the purview of the social sciences.

New social science departments could also help to better train students by engaging in new types of pedagogy. For example, in the natural sciences, even college freshmen do laboratory experiments. Why is this rare in the social sciences? When students learn about social phenomena, why don’t they go to the lab to examine them — how markets reach equilibrium, how people cooperate, how social ties are formed? Newly invented tools make this feasible. It is now possible to use the Internet to enlist thousands of people to participate in randomized experiments. This seems radical only because our current social science departments weren’t organized to teach this way.

For the past century, people have looked to the physical and biological sciences to solve important problems. The social sciences offer equal promise for improving human welfare; our lives can be greatly improved through a deeper understanding of individual and collective behavior. But to realize this promise, the social sciences, like the natural sciences, need to match their institutional structures to today’s intellectual challenges.

Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and sociologist at Yale University, is a co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science.

quinta-feira, 25 de julho de 2013

Paul Stevens: The world might be drifting into an oil price shock

There are two new dimensions to international oil markets that are creating a dilemma for Opec and may be sowing the seeds of an oil price shock. The first is the fallout from the Arab uprising, which began in 2011. The second is the development and application of shale technology – horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – to oil production.
A significant consequence of the upheaval in the Middle East and north Africa is that oil-producing governments need more revenue to pay for social policies that will assuage popular unrest. This requires higher prices. For example, in 2008 it was estimated that Saudi Arabia needed about $50 a barrel to balance the books. Last year estimates put the figure closer to $95.
Such high prices will produce market responses and this is where shale technology comes in. This relatively high-cost technology has led to a dramatic increase in oil production, most obviously in the US. The new Review of World Energy Statistics from BP shows that 2012 recorded the highest single-year increase in US oil production ever.
At the same time, high prices will also lead to oil demand destruction. In particular the impact will be felt in the Middle East, India and China. The MICs, according to the International Energy Agency, are expected to account for 68 per cent of the increase in non-OECD oil demand between 2011 and 2035. However, all three have historically had heavily subsidised oil that encouraged oil demand growth. This has been changing. With price reform in the MICs, the higher prices needed by Opec will be paid directly by consumers. That will cut demand growth. The result is unsustainable. Higher supply and lower demand will put the high prices needed by Opec under pressure.
Markets do work and the situation is very reminiscent of the period 1981-86 which culminated in the dramatic 1986 oil price collapse. Saudi Arabia then was acting as the so-called swing producer in order to defend high prices. Its eventual rejection of that role in 1985 triggered the 1986 price collapse. In the past nine months, Saudi Arabia has quietly resumed that role.
Before the 1981-86 period, new oil sources – the North Sea, Alaska and other non-Opec resources – were waiting to be tapped if prices rose high enough. Today it is the resources potentially unlocked by shale technology that lurk.
Finally, the industry consensus then expected ever-rising oil demand – ignoring the impact of the oil price shocks of the 1970s. Today there is a similar consensus that again ignores the fact that oil prices have steadily been increasing, albeit around a volatile trend since 2002, rising from $20 a barrel to more than $100.
Thus market responses will affect prices as in 1986, possibly leading to a significant collapse. The key will be how long Saudi Arabia continues to act as swing producer before the pain becomes too great, as it did in 1985. While in recent years the Saudis have been able to accumulate a financial cushion – although exactly how much is uncertain – cushions eventually disappear. If they are no longer willing or able to protect prices then these must fall. Opec, now facing extra sectarian divisions following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, would struggle to respond.
But there are differences between today and the 1981-86 period that complicate the story. Then there were no “paper” markets trading future barrels of oil. Today futures markets play a big role in price determination and lead to prices changing at a much faster rate than before. The new supplies today have a different cost structure: supplies will respond faster to lower prices than was the case in the early 1980s.
If prices do drop, it could lead to further unrest in oil-producing nations, spooking the markets. The result would be much greater oil price volatility. In that case, security of supply concerns – based on fears of physical disruption – would be overtaken by concerns about the macroeconomic impact of oil price volatility. At the very least, this would increase pressure to further regulate the paper markets.
For producers it would bring to the very top of the agenda the need to diversify their economies away from oil dependence. This has long been an aim but for the most part with very disappointing results which will, in turn, feed the consequent political upheavals. Overall, oil markets are in for a rough ride.

Paul Stevens is fellow at the think-tank Chatham House

Fonte: FT

quarta-feira, 24 de julho de 2013

Joseph Nye: The infant Prince George is a source of real-world power

Confesso minha surpresa com atenção exagerada da midia e de amigos a espera do nascimento do filho(a) do Principe Guilherme e da Catarina. O artigo do Nye ajuda a explicar porque esse não é um evento como outro qualquer. Vale a leitura.

Can an infant affect the global power of a nation in the 21st century? He can if he is a Windsor born in Britain this week. Not perhaps the way a male Tudor heir would have affected Britain’s balance with Spain five centuries ago, but Prince George affects Britain’s soft power in the world. For better or worse, the monarchy still matters in global politics.
The British monarch, of course, is the head of the 54-nation Commonwealth, and even where she is no longer head of state, the royal brand still stirs some hearts and sells some products. And in the US, the land of revolting colonials where George III is still a villain in the schoolbooks and many pundits have (mistakenly) pronounced the end of the special relationship, people arose early to watch the royal wedding and now celebrate the birth of the new prince. Television anchors gush with enthusiasm. Even before this week’s event, a CBS/New York Times poll reported in 2011 that 71 per cent of Americans thought the royal family “a good thing,” and only 15 per cent were against it. This is remarkably similar to the monarchy’s 77 per cent approval rating at home.
We live in a celebrity era and the monarchy has managed to hold its own in competition with rock stars and athletes. In an information age, where power is not only a function of whose army wins but also whose story wins, the monarchy has provided a compelling narrative with more durability than the 15 minutes of fame enjoyed by celebrities who lack its institutional trappings.
Britain has recently been enjoying a good innings in the soft-power league. Not only have the BBC and the British Council kept their international reputations for credibility but the successful London Olympics and Paralympics provided a beneficial burst of public relations. In its 2012 rankings of countries’ soft power, Monocle Magazine argued that Britain had displaced the US in the top slot.
The British government is beginning to pay more attention. The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review and National Security Strategy stressed the value of soft power in response to the problems involving defence cuts, and William Hague, foreign secretary, has argued for the importance of soft power as a “vital component” of the UK’s international role. A House of Lords committee on soft power and the UK’s influence is holding hearings. Certainly, the monarchy should be one of the instruments they examine.
What are the costs and benefits of the monarchy as an instrument of soft power? Next year’s Sovereign Grant for the royal family will be about £36m. Critics complain that this does not fully account for security and travel costs but even if the estimate were doubled, it would be a mere pittance compared with other expenditures in the defence budget. Britain’s relatively few republicans complain that the social costs of anchoring a vestigial aristocratic class system is much more important, but this raises constitutional and political issues that go far beyond soft power.
Soft power – the ability to produce outcomes through attraction rather than coercion or payment – is not a panacea. But neither is hard power, as we discovered in Iraq. If one wishes to depose a regime or roll back an invasion, hard power is necessary. But if one’s objective is to foster democracy or human rights, soft power may be more effective. And in most cases, a smart power strategy depends upon the mutually reinforcing combination of hard and soft-power resources. The cultivation of soft-power resources of legitimacy and goodwill can create a favourable environment.
Promoting attractive images of one’s country is not new but the conditions for trying to create soft power have changed dramatically in recent decades. For one thing, nearly half the countries in the world are now democracies. In such circumstances, diplomacy aimed at public opinion can become as important to outcomes as the traditional classified diplomatic communications among leaders. Information creates power, and today a much larger part of the world’s population has access to that power. Technological advances have led to dramatic reduction in the cost of processing and transmitting information.
The result is an explosion of information, and that has produced a “paradox of plenty.” Plentiful information leads to scarcity of attention. One of the great ironies of this century is that the democratic remains of a once hierarchical monarchy are still a very cost-effective way of attracting attention for Britain today.

Joseph Nye is a professor at Harvard University and author of ‘Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era’

Fonte: FT

terça-feira, 23 de julho de 2013

Against Cynicism: A philosopher's brilliant reasons for living

Peter Sloterdijk has been one of Germany’s best-known philosophers for 30 years, ever since the publication of his Critique of Cynical Reason in 1983—a thousand-page treatise that became a best-seller. Since then Sloterdijk has been at the forefront of European intellectual life, contributing to public debates over genetic engineering and economics and hosting a long-running discussion program on television, all while publishing a steady stream of ambitious philosophical works. The Critique of Cynical Reason appeared in English many years ago, but it is only recently that Sloterdijk has begun to emerge on the American horizon. Bubbles, the first volume in a trilogy called Spheres, his magnum opus, appeared here in 2011. Now it is followed by You Must Change Your Life, another wide-ranging and challenging book. Along with Rage and Time, which appeared in English in 2010, these volumes make it possible to begin to come to grips with Sloterdijk as a stirring and eclectic thinker, who addresses himself boldly to the most important problems of our age. Above all, he is concerned with metaphysics—or, rather, with what to do with the empty space that is left over when metaphysics disappears—along with religion, faith in revolution, and the other grand sources of meaning that long gave shape and direction to human lives.

Sloterdijk was born in 1947, making him just the right age to participate in the student movement of the 1960s. By the early 1980s, when he wrote Critique of Cynical Reason, the idealism and the world-changing energy of that movement had long since dwindled into splinter-group violence, on the one hand, and accommodation to the realities of capitalism and the Cold War, on the other. In that cultural moment, Sloterdijk’s diagnosis of “cynicism” was very timely. “The dissolution of the student movement,” he wrote, “must interest us because it represents a complex metamorphosis of hope into realism, of revolt into a clever melancholy.”

Despite its parodic Kantian title, Sloterdijk’s Critique is not a work of theoretical abstraction; it is a highly personal confession of this generational world-weariness. As a philosopher, Sloterdijk is especially struck by the way he and his peers were able to master the most emancipatory and radical philosophical language, but utterly unable to apply its insights to their own lives and their own political situations. Coming after Critical Theory, whose post-Marxist diagnoses of social ills are a key reference point and antagonist for Sloterdijk, younger thinkers have found themselves brilliant at diagnosis and helpless at cure. “Because everything has become problematic, everything is also somehow a matter of indifference,” Sloterdijk observes. The result is cynicism, which he defines in a splendid paradox as “enlightened false consciousness”: “It has learned its lessons in enlightenment, but it has not, and probably was not able to, put them into practice.”

If we are to break out of this learned helplessness, Sloterdijk argues, we must ransack the Western tradition for new philosophical resources. Such ransacking is exactly the method of Sloterdijk’s thought, first in the Critique and then, on an even grander scale, in Bubbles and You Must Change Your Life. Drawing on very wide reading—wider, the reader often feels, than it is deep—Sloterdijk excavates the prehistory of contemporary problems, and some of their possible solutions. In the Critique, he offers an extended analysis of the culture of Weimar Germany, in which he locates the origin of twentieth-century cynicism—as well as describing the many sub-varieties of cynicism (military, sexual, religious), and doing a close reading of Dostoevsky, and cataloguing the meaning of different facial expressions. The effect on the reader is of being shown around a Wunderkammer, where what matters is not the advancing of an argument but the display of various intellectual treasures.

Para ler o resto clique

segunda-feira, 22 de julho de 2013

Em busca do rebanho perdido

Excelente artigo no Valor( jornal editado por uma evangelica) sobre o estado atual do catolicismo no Brasil.

Ter o Brasil como destino da primeira grande viagem internacional do papa Francisco parece tão adequado para a Igreja de Roma que até os descrentes poderiam suspeitar de uma pequena ajuda dos céus. O cardeal argentino Jorge Bergoglio deixou Buenos Aires para se tornar o primeiro pontífice do Hemisfério Sul, para onde tem se deslocado o eixo do cristianismo mundial nos últimos anos, e o único até agora a ter origem na América Latina, terra de boa parte do rebanho católico atualmente. Francisco, 266º papa da história, virá ao maior país católico do mundo na semana que vem e vai falar a um público que desperta a atenção de qualquer credo religioso: os jovens.

Sob esse mar de conveniências, no entanto, se acumulam indícios de que está em curso uma transformação radical no cenário religioso brasileiro, que transborda os limites da fé e tem implicações em todas as outras áreas da vida, da política à economia. Parte dessas mudanças ainda é difícil de distinguir e afeta diversas confissões religiosas, mas parece inegável que o traço mais emblemático desse processo seja a diminuição da influência católica.

Em quase um século, o número de católicos no Brasil caiu apenas 8%. Em 1872, ainda na época do império, 100% da população brasileira se declarava fiel aos princípios de Roma. Em 1970, sob o regime militar, essa porcentagem era de 91,8%. Foi quando a tendência começou a se acelerar. E muito. De 1980 a 2010, os católicos passaram de 89% da população para 65%, uma queda de 24 pontos percentuais em apenas 30 anos. Enquanto isso, os evangélicos tiveram um aumento de 15,5 pontos percentuais, passando de 6,6% para 22,2% dos brasileiros. O impulso veio principalmente das igrejas pentecostais - grupos evangélicos mais recentes, com ênfase em habilidades especiais, como a capacidade de curar doentes. De 1980 a 2000, o número de pentecostais dobrou a cada década, de 3,9 milhões para 17,6 milhões de fiéis. Em 2010, eles já eram 25,4 milhões. Ou seja, o papa também vai pregar naquele que provavelmente também é o maior país pentecostal do planeta.

"O Brasil entrou definitivamente na era do pluralismo religioso. Passou de uma posição de hegemonia católica para uma de maioria católica", diz o professor Cesar Romero Jacob, diretor do Departamento de Comunicação Social da Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio).

Mas a perda de espaço dos católicos para os pentecostais - e para os que se declaram sem religião, outro grupo em crescimento - não ocorre da mesma maneira em todo o país, ressalva Jacob. "Há lugares onde a Igreja Católica perde muito e outros onde perde pouco ou quase nada."

Parece misterioso, mas a redução mais acentuada ocorre em dois cenários muito distintos entre si: na chamada fronteira agrícola, formada por Estados como Goiás, Mato Grosso e Mato Grosso do Sul, além da região amazônica, e nas periferias das maiores metrópoles, como São Paulo e Rio. "O que há de comum entre esses dois mundos?", pergunta o professor. "O migrante", responde.

Migrações não são um fenômeno novo no país e, necessariamente, não implicam uma mudança da matriz religiosa, mas alterações historicamente recentes no processo migratório acabaram induzindo uma transformação no quadro confessional do país, diz Jacob. Da Primeira Guerra até 1974, o primeiro choque do petróleo, muita gente mudou do interior para as capitais sem trocar de religião. O que aconteceu a partir daí, afirma o estudioso, é que sucessivas crises econômicas empobreceram tanto a população que a motivação dos migrantes passou do sonho de buscar uma vida melhor para a sobrevivência pura e simples.

Sem emprego e com o Estado quebrado, essas pessoas se viram reunidas em áreas que tinham pouco a ver com sua região original, sem o apoio da família e de amigos e com quase nenhuma infraestrutura para dar conta das necessidades mais básicas. Como a Igreja Católica também não estava presente nessas áreas, pelo menos de maneira maciça, esses grupos passaram a prestar mais atenção em uma pregação que muitos nunca tinham ouvido antes - a dos pentecostais. Estavam abertas as portas para o fluxo de conversões que se veria a seguir.

A Igreja Católica bem que tentou se aproximar dessa parcela da população mais pobre, em um esforço que abriu um dos capítulos mais polêmicos da história recente do catolicismo na América Latina. Foram as Comunidades Eclesiais de Base (CEBs), que se disseminaram entre os anos 60 e 80. Muito influenciadas por adeptos da Teologia da Libertação, que tentava aproximar o evangelho da teoria marxista, as CEBs não conseguiram a adesão massiva dos mais pobres e acabaram se tornando alvo das animosidades entre as diferentes facções da hierarquia romana, opondo bispos e religiosos mais conservadores aos progressistas.

"Imagine que você é uma mulher pobre, nos anos 70 ou 80, com um marido que está desempregado e fica violento quando bebe", diz o professor Rodrigo Franklin de Sousa, coordenador do Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciências da Religião da Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, em São Paulo. "Você vai a uma CEB, onde encontra um padre altamente intelectualizado, falando sobre a estrutura do capitalismo. Em seguida, vai a uma igreja pentecostal, na qual o pastor diz que vai orar para seu marido parar de beber cachaça e proporcionar a você uma vida melhor. Em que lugar você ficaria?"

Com o tempo, esse descompasso acabou ficando tão evidente que os estudiosos da religião criaram uma frase para resumir aquele período. "A Teologia da Libertação fez uma opção preferencial pelos pobres, mas os pobres fizeram uma opção pelo pentecostalismo", repete Sousa.

Na prática, a polarização na Igreja Católica deixou, de um lado, uma instituição formal e dogmática, defendida pelos mais conservadores e distante da população; de outro, as CEBS, que passaram a ser bombardeadas internamente, principalmente a partir do pontificado de João Paulo II, e também não se mostraram hábeis em atrair fiéis. No vácuo, os pentecostais iniciaram sua escalada, que se revelaria muito mais bem-sucedida do que parecia a princípio.

O avanço pentecostal não é a única preocupação da Igreja Católica. O próprio perfil de quem permanece fiel à instituição mudou muito. "Se no passado havia uma pressão para ser religioso, hoje existe uma força contrária, para não ser. Curiosamente, o que se vê é que muitos católicos, principalmente entre os jovens, têm sido mais engajados. São religiosos por opção", afirma Sousa, do Mackenzie. O enunciado da equação é que, se há menos católicos no total, existe entre eles um número maior de praticantes.

Isso, porém, não quer dizer obediência cega aos preceitos da Igreja Romana. A maioria dos católicos ignora solenemente alguns princípios preconizados por padres, bispos e cardeais. É o caso da proibição do sexo antes do casamento e do uso de métodos contraceptivos como a pílula anticoncepcional. O aumento do número de adolescentes grávidas e solteiras - algumas no segundo ou terceiro filhos - mostra isso. O divórcio, um ponto nunca digerido totalmente por Roma, também se tornou comum, apesar de o matrimônio ser um sacramento para os católicos e, portanto, considerado indissolúvel.

"O católico brasileiro ama ser católico, mas quer construir identidade própria, independentemente do dogma. Ele se identifica com a religiosidade, mas nos seus termos, o que também vale para outras religiões", diz o professor Sousa.

Essa liberdade se soma a fenômenos culturais com raízes mais antigas, que fomentaram uma fé sincrética, que toma emprestados aspectos de diferentes religiões para criar uma expressão individual muito particular de religiosidade. No Brasil, todo mundo conhece alguém que se define como católico, mas acredita em reencarnação, joga velas para Iemanjá no réveillon e mantém uma estátua de Buda na estante para dar sorte - elementos que não têm nada a ver com a fé católica.

A pergunta é como esse católico pouco tradicional, a despeito de um perfil eventualmente mais interessado na vida eclesiástica, vai responder a outras questões de ordem prática, sobre as quais a Igreja Católica tem posições claras, nem sempre em sintonia com o desejo da maioria. O casamento gay está longe de um consenso, mas já foi legalizado em países tradicionalmente católicos e vem sendo discutido em muitos outros lugares. O aborto, outro tema explosivo, também suscita discussões recorrentes, assim como as pesquisa com células-tronco. A influência da Igreja Católica será proporcionalmente maior à medida que conseguir convencer seus fiéis de que seus argumentos estão corretos. A alternativa é pregar ao vento, sem ninguém para ouvir.

É a esse jovem, que tomou parte ou no mínimo acompanhou os protestos recentes no país, que o papa Francisco vai falar no Rio, durante a Jornada Mundial da Juventude, instituída por João Paulo II em 1984. "Será a abertura de seu pontificado em termos estratégicos", diz o professor Fernando Altemeyer, do Departamento de Teologia da PUC-SP. "Questões relativas à moral sexual, como o uso da camisinha e o casamento gay, provavelmente não serão tratados na viagem. Os temas ficarão concentrados em pontos estratégicos da vida do jovem", afirma o teólogo.

A expectativa de Altemeyer é que cerca de 320 mil jovens participem das atividades da semana, um número que pode chegar a 500 mil, já que ainda há vagas a preencher. "A última missa pode reunir os 2 milhões de pessoas esperadas, mas não dá para dizer que todos eles terão participado da Jornada. [Na missa] vai estar lotado de protestante, pentecostal, gente da umbanda e do candomblé... Todo mundo quer ver o papa", diz o professor da PUC-SP. "Vai ser uma apoteose."

A figura de Francisco, a começar do nome escolhido - uma referência ao santo pobre e amigo dos animais -, ajuda a capturar a atenção do público. Nas redes de TV e no noticiário em geral voltou à moda um bordão retirado de um rock nacional dos anos 80: "O papa é pop". O caráter midiático do chefe da Igreja Católica não pode ser subestimado. Principalmente porque ele sucede à imagem severa do envelhecido papa Bento XVI, anteriormente cardeal Ratzinger e hoje papa emérito. "Bento XVI era um intelectual, era cérebro. Francisco é estômago, é visceral", observa Altemeyer.

Com a visita ao Brasil, será a hora de saber quanto a imagem risonha e amigável de Francisco será capaz de contribuir para a recuperação de parte do rebanho perdido no Brasil. Sob qualquer aspecto, não é uma tarefa fácil. Muitos estudiosos da religião observam uma forte alteração de rota, na direção do conservadorismo, a partir de João Paulo II, com desdobramentos ainda mais profundos sob a direção de Bento XVI. A avaliação geral é que a Igreja Católica tornou-se "teológica" demais, muito preocupada com a preservação dos dogmas, mas distante das questões do dia a dia que afetam a vida dos seus fiéis.

O clamor por uma abordagem cotidiana e temperada com uma flexibilidade maior parece legítimo, mas acertar a dose não é coisa simples, como mostram os exemplos de outras igrejas cristãs.

Nos Estados Unidos, as grandes denominações protestantes que dominaram a cena desde o Mayflower até pelo menos a década de 50 - luteranos, presbiterianos, episcopais e metodistas, entre outros grupos - deram uma guinada em direção ao liberalismo, com consequências desapontadoras sob muitos aspectos. Reconhecidas por um chapéu comum, o das "mainline protestants", essas igrejas partiram para uma ação social mais engajada e fizeram, internamente, mudanças que pareciam identificadas com o senso comum, incluindo a ordenação de mulheres. Mais recentemente, algumas passaram a aceitar casais gays não apenas entre os membros como em seu corpo de ministros. O resultado é que muitos fiéis deixaram seus bancos, trocando-os por igrejas evangélicas que fazem uma interpretação mais literal das Escrituras. É esse segmento religioso o que mais cresce nos EUA. A diferença é que muitas igrejas evangélicas americanas mantêm um perfil tradicional, bem diferente do ramo pentecostal de rápido crescimento no Brasil.

"O problema das 'mainline' é que, apesar de ter se preocupado com questões contemporâneas, elas esvaziaram o sentido espiritual. No domingo, as pessoas passaram a ouvir do púlpito que os milagres relatados na 'Bíblia' têm explicações naturais, eliminando o místico e o sobrenatural", diz Sousa. A decisão, mais propensa ao mundo acadêmico do que à busca dos fiéis pela transcendência, foi dos teólogos e não das pessoas comuns, o que ocasionou o desencontro, afirma o professor do Mackenzie.

No Brasil, quem vai participar da Jornada da Juventude, no Rio, faria bem se observasse com mais cuidado os lugares onde ficarão concentradas as maiores manifestações: Copacabana, na zona sul da cidade, e Guaratiba, na zona oeste, duas áreas que, segundo o professor Jacob, exemplificam as diferenças religiosas que ganharam corpo no país nos últimos tempos.

O pentecostalismo cresce principalmente na miséria e na segregação, afirma o pesquisador, com base em trabalhos iniciados há dez anos. Aparentemente, segundo a tese, todas favelas seriam um terreno propício à pregação pentecostal. Mas os trabalhos de Jacob e sua equipe - o mais recente deles intitulado "Religião e Território no Brasil" e lançado na forma de um e-book gratuito - mostram variações: enquanto as favelas da zona sul do Rio, como a Rocinha, permanecem católicas, as da parte pobre da zona oeste, incluindo as de Guaratiba, mostram grande número de pentecostais.

A diferença é que como a Rocinha fica próxima a Copacabana seus moradores podem se aproveitar, mesmo que parcialmente, da infraestrutura existente no bairro, um dos mais tradicionais da cidade. Já em Guaratiba, de ocupação mais recente, o acesso à rede de serviços públicos é muito menor. A sutileza, conclui o professor, é que só um dos elementos da combinação mortal pobreza-desagregação pode não ser suficiente para estimular uma debandada religiosa em direção a uma fé diferente. Isso ocorreria mais facilmente quando as duas condições estão juntas.

Isso adquire um caráter importante porque as gestões dos três últimos presidentes da República - Fernando Henrique, Lula e Dilma - contribuíram para a estabilidade econômica e o aumento da renda média dos brasileiros, o que elimina ou pelo menos reduz fortemente o impacto das condições econômicas no comportamento religioso da população. "Isso não quer dizer que o pentecostalismo vá deixar de crescer ou o catolicismo parar de cair, mas o crescimento das igrejas vai depender muito mais da organização e da ação pastoral de cada grupo religioso", diz Jacob.

As relações econômicas não são as únicas a interferir no perfil religioso do país. Há também um reflexo político. As igrejas reformadas históricas, criadas sob os princípios da Reforma Protestante do século XVI na Europa, sempre evitaram a tentação de misturar as clássicas esferas da igreja e do Estado, o que significa não dizer a seus membros em quem votar ou apoiar oficialmente um ou outro partido político. A natureza da relação entre a Igreja Católica e a política no Brasil é complexa, considerando que até o fim do império essa era a religião oficial do país. A maioria dos políticos é católica, um reflexo da composição religiosa da população, mas dificilmente eles agem como um bloco. O dado novo é que muitas igrejas pentecostais não têm o refinamento dos grupos tradicionais e partem para uma luta pelo poder, sem dogmas a defender, diz Sousa, do Mackenzie.

Complexo sob vários aspectos, esse cenário torna ainda mais relevante saber o que o papa vai dizer em sua peregrinação ao Brasil, já que se espera que esse seja o tom de seu pontificado. Recentemente, o discurso de Francisco na ilha de Lampedusa, no sul da Itália, perto da costa africana, causou furor por causa da veemência em condenar o que classificou de globalização da indiferença, em uma crítica ao fechamento da Europa a populações mais pobres.

Outras duas medidas deram indicações dos caminhos que o papa pode seguir: uma nova encíclica, que já vinha sendo desenhada por seu antecessor, e mudanças no código penal do Vaticano, que não propõem nenhum movimento radical, mas de alguma maneira mostram uma disposição da nova administração em ser mais rigorosa quanto a um dos problemas mais sensíveis da Igreja de Roma: a série de casos de pedofilia envolvendo religiosos.

Em novembro, diz o professor Altemeyer, da PUC-SP, é esperada uma grande reforma administrativa na Igreja Católica. Como bispo de Roma, caberá ao papa definir cargos importantes, como o de secretário de Estado do Vaticano, e anunciar um aguardado enxugamento da máquina. Mas a reformulação terá a gestão como alvo.

Questões mais nervosas, como o celibato e a ordenação de mulheres, podem até entrar em discussão no futuro, afirmam especialistas, mas a maioria deles não prevê nenhuma reforma radical nessas áreas. A previsão é que o papa poderá até imprimir uma tônica progressista às suas críticas à política econômica global ou às desigualdades sociais, como já provou em Lampedusa, mas será mais conservador no que tiver de fazer dentro de casa.

No Rio, afirma Altemeyer, não se deve esperar nenhuma crítica contundente aos pentecostais. "Eles também são cristãos. O problema, hoje, é o número de jovens que estão se tornando agnósticos", afirma.

Quando ao celibato, o que pode levar a uma discussão mais intensa não é questão sexual ou os direitos do padre de constituir família, diz Altemeyer. "O problema é que faltam padres no Brasil. Hoje são 22 mil sacerdotes em todo o país para cerca de 50 mil lugares de culto católico, incluindo igrejas, capelas, hospitais etc." A maioria dos sacerdotes está no Centro-Sul, o que deixa desassistidas áreas como o Nordeste e a Amazônia.

O celibato não é um dogma da Igreja Católica, o que significa que o processo formal para alterá-lo não é tão complexo, mas uma carga cultural de séculos não é fácil de abandonar e há uma série de questões decorrentes para organizar uma estrutura em que padres casados, acompanhados de família, passariam a assumir paróquias. Nessa, como em outras questões, caberá a Francisco equilibrar dois lados: as mudanças e a tradição.

João Luiz Rosa

Fonte: Valor

quinta-feira, 18 de julho de 2013

Werlang & Fernando de Holanda: A macroeconomia com pleno emprego

Boa analise da nova dupla dinâmica da FGV-RJ. Excelente oportunidade para aprender o be-a-ba do novo cenário macroeconomico na leitura de dois dos mais qualificados representantes do pensamento econômico mainstream.

Naércio Menezes Filho publicou, em 18/01/13, um instigante artigo no Valor: "Enigma do Mercado de Trabalho". Nesse trabalho ele mostra que estruturalmente a taxa de desemprego caiu muito no Brasil, entre outros motivos porque o crescimento da oferta de mão de obra reduziu-se bastante. A taxa de crescimento da população em idade ativa (PIA) do Brasil caiu de 1,8% ao ano em 2000 para 1,4% ao ano em 2013. Nas regiões metropolitanas avaliadas na Pesquisa Mensal de Emprego (PME), o crescimento da PIA reduziu-se de 1,8% em 2003 para 1,2% em 2012. Combinando-se esse fato com o aumento expressivo dos salários reais médios no Brasil (desde março de 2006 o salário real cresceu a taxas superiores a 2% ao ano), é razoável concluir que a economia brasileira está passando por um fenômeno novo, a escassez relativa de mão de obra. Isto é, uma situação em que o país está vivenciando pleno emprego, embora o nível de utilização da capacidade instalada (NUCI/ FGV) médio dos últimos doze meses esteja em 84,2%, inferior ao pico de 85,9% ocorrido em agosto de 2008.

O pleno emprego foi atingido pela combinação de uma diminuição do crescimento da força de trabalho aliado a um crescimento (ainda que modesto) da demanda. Deve-se notar que, além do perfil demográfico, outros fatores contribuíram para a queda do desemprego, como o aumento da participação do setor de serviços na economia brasileira. O objetivo deste artigo é discutir quais são as implicações macroeconômicas do pleno emprego.

Sem dúvida, a mais importante consequência desse fenômeno é que estímulos de demanda não têm efeito relevante na atividade econômica. Isto porque a restrição de oferta é a que atua na economia. E como há excesso de capacidade instalada, o Produto Interno Bruto crescerá o que for permitido pela oferta de mão de obra. A oferta de trabalho é influenciada por inúmeros fatores. Dentre eles: a demografia (a PIA), a participação na força de trabalho (que é resultante, entre outras, da escolaridade, da idade em que as pessoas decidem começar a trabalhar e da decisão de um ou ambos do núcleo familiar ingressar na força de trabalho) e o salário real. Como houve aumento do salário real, é razoável supor-se que tal elevação tenha afetado a oferta de trabalho. Esse efeito, no entanto, foi pequeno: a taxa de participação, medida com dados da PME, aumentou de 57% em 2008 para 57,3% em 2012, após uma elevação dos salários reais nesse mesmo período de 13,5% (ou 3,4% ao ano).

Desta maneira, a única forma pela qual um aumento da demanda poderia influenciar a oferta de trabalho seria pelo aumento do salário real, e este tem impacto muito limitado. Portanto, para todos os fins práticos, uma elevação da demanda faz apenas com que o salário real aumente no curto prazo, e depois tenha efeito na inflação no médio prazo. Isto pode ser claramente visto no setor de serviços: salários reais subindo em média 3% ao ano desde 2004, inflação de serviços média de 6,8% ao ano enquanto que a inflação média foi de 5,3% ao ano.

Segue-se que não deve haver estímulos de demanda, pois estes só geram inflação. Ou seja, não há impacto relevante na atividade econômica de uma queda de juros (nem de aumento moderado), nem de uma expansão dos gastos do governo. Aqui é importante notar que não há efeitos nem das despesas públicas, nem dos gastos do governo ditos parafiscais (isto é, por exemplo, o subsidio implícito nos empréstimos do BNDES).

Mais ainda, incentivos que aqueçam a demanda de um setor da economia apenas deslocam a produção em favor deste setor em detrimento dos demais. Isto porque este setor poderá pagar salários mais elevados do que os outros por conta dos estímulos, e esta mão de obra extra deixará de atender a outros setores. Outro tipo de política que não tem o efeito desejado é a de incentivos à contratação de mão de obra. De fato, como a oferta de trabalho é o fator limitante, decorre daí que mais estímulos não aumentam de forma relevante o volume total de empregos. Apenas contribuem para aumentos salariais que terão impactos mais adiante na inflação e na competitividade.

E o que fazer então? Em primeiro lugar, se por um lado os incentivos de demanda não conseguem elevar a taxa de crescimento, por outro lado, o desaquecimento da demanda também tem pouco efeito no emprego e na atividade econômica. Significa dizer que o combate à inflação, que precisa ser efetuado com instrumentos de demanda, é pouco impactante no que se refere à taxa de crescimento da economia. Assim, aumento de juros e corte de gastos fiscais e parafiscais podem ser feitos sem consequência relevante na atividade. Haverá apenas queda da inflação. Em segundo lugar, políticas que elevem a produtividade do capital, (ou seja, que economizem mão de obra) são muito importantes, pois fazem com que a mesma força de trabalho possa ser empregada para diminuir o excesso de capacidade. Um exemplo que tem sido levantado é a nossa baixa produtividade do trabalho na área de construção civil, setor intensivo em trabalho no Brasil quando comparado com outros países. Logo, os incentivos do governo devem ser guiados à adoção destas tecnologias. Em terceiro lugar, há ainda um sem número de melhorias que podem ser feitas nas regulamentações dos contratos de longo prazo e dos mercados. Essas modificações têm que ter por objetivo reforçar a segurança jurídica, de modo a incentivar o investimento.

Um exemplo evidente nos dias de hoje é o do mercado de gás, que precisa urgentemente de uma nova regulamentação, caso o Brasil queira aproveitar suas reservas de gás de xisto eficientemente. Em quarto lugar, deve ser considerada a possibilidade de facilitar a imigração de trabalhadores qualificados. Hoje há desemprego e excesso de oferta de mão de obra na Europa. Por sua vez no Brasil tem-se falta de oferta. Por que não aproveitar esta conjuntura para fazer uma política de imigração mais ativa e atrair capital humano de qualidade para o país? Canadá e Austrália são exemplos de países que utilizaram e utilizam políticas favoráveis à aceitação de imigrantes.

As evidencias de que o país teve uma queda na sua taxa natural de crescimento (o "crescimento potencial") são cada vez mais convincentes. Houve queda na acumulação de fatores de produção e da produtividade. A taxa de incremento da oferta de trabalho caiu, resultado este proveniente essencialmente do envelhecimento da população brasileira. Em que pese ainda haver possíveis dúvidas sobre os efeitos mais precisos de cada uma das variáveis na taxa de crescimento potencial do PIB, não há dúvida sobre a relevância da demografia brasileira sobre esta taxa. Isto faz com que as políticas usuais de incentivo à demanda (também conhecidas como keynesianas) tenham efeito muito limitado sobre a atividade econômica. Mais ainda, o impacto sobre a taxa de inflação destas políticas é grande. Dessa forma, é importante que seja levado em consideração que as implicações macroeconômicas numa economia em pleno emprego são muito distintas daquelas a que tradicionalmente o país está acostumado.

Sérgio Ribeiro da Costa Werlang é assessor do presidente da FGV.

Fernando de Holanda Barbosa Filho é professor da FGV e pesquisador do Ibre/FGV

Fonte: Valor

quarta-feira, 17 de julho de 2013

Chico Lopes: O PIB cresce 4% ao ano

Não sou tão otimista quanto o Chico Lopes, mas a opinião de um economista do calibre dele deve sempre ser levada em consideração. Ainda acredito em crescimento mediocre - em torno de 2% - e a Selic fechando o ano em 9,5%.
Gostei muito do artigo do Alexandre(PSDB) "eram os deuses astronautas, na FSP, desta quarta-feira. Ele tem razão em criticar o vergonhoso artigo de dois keynesianos que saiu no Valor. Guido Mantega é um pessimo "poster boy" das propostas dos novos(velhos) desenvolvimentistas, mas o problema maior é o equivocado diagnostico que, por sua vez, levou a medidas que pecam pela falta de coerência, pra ser generoso. O resultado, infelizmente, era esperado, como, alias, mencionado ad nauseam em vários posts nesse blog.

O título deste texto não é uma piada, nem uma projeção, nem mesmo a expressão de um desejo. É apenas a constatação de um fato: os últimos números publicados para o Índice de Atividade do Banco Central, o IBC-BR, que pode ser considerado uma aproximação em base mensal para o PIB trimestral do IBGE, indicam claramente que no segundo trimestre de 2013 a economia brasileira estava crescendo ao ritmo de 4% ao ano.

Mas espere um momento! Não foram esses números que repercutiram de forma tão negativa na imprensa, sugerindo até que estamos novamente a caminho da recessão? Basta olhar os títulos de algumas das matérias publicadas: Indicador do BC mostra país na rota da recessão; Economia tem maior retração desde 2008; Cada vez mais difícil decolar; Bancos oficiais já prevêem crescimento abaixo de 2%; IBC-BR reforça sinais da lenta perda de gás da economia em 2013; Pibinho de inverno.

Na realidade, a única coisa que fica clara aqui é que a mídia especializada e a grande maioria dos analistas da economia parecem sofrer atualmente de um pessimismo obsessivo. De fato a leitura que foi feita dos números do BC configura um caso clássico do que a psicologia cognitiva denomina de viés de confirmação (confirmation bias), que ocorre quando as pessoas só são sensibilizadas por informações que pareçam confirmar suas crenças ou hipóteses, ignorando qualquer evidência em sentido contrário.

Todo esse pessimismo foi produzido apenas pela observação de que a variação percentual de maio sobre abril do IBC-BR com ajuste sazonal foi de menos 1,4%. Acontece, porém, que essa série de variação mensal tem muito ruído. É no mínimo temerário extrair qualquer sinal de direção de movimento com base na observação de um único mês. Além disso, quando usamos dados mensais a introdução do ajustamento sazonal não aumenta muito o poder informativo de uma observação isolada. No dado mensal o padrão de sazonalidade pode variar muito ao longo do tempo em resposta a uma serie de fatores, como feriados, greves, paralisações ou mudanças institucionais. Sabemos que não existe técnica perfeita de ajuste sazonal, mas com dados mensais as dificuldades ficam ainda maiores.

Se quisermos ter uma ideia precisa do que está acontecendo com uma economia, o caminho mais seguro é trabalhar com variações em doze meses. Mesmo assim uma observação mensal isolada tem que ser vista com cautela. Por exemplo, a variação em doze meses do IBC-BR até maio de 2013 (portanto sobre maio de 2012) foi de 2,28%, mostrando sem dúvida uma desaceleração importante em relação à variação em doze meses de 7,3% até abril. Note-se, porém, que esse excepcional resultado de abril foi simplesmente ignorado tanto pela imprensa como pela maioria dos analistas de economia. Por outro lado, a variação em doze meses de maio significou aceleração em relação às variações de 1,16% até março e de 0,44% até fevereiro. Que direção de movimento estaria sendo sinalizada aqui?

Existe amplo consenso de que a forma mais segura para se analisar o movimento do PIB é usar dados trimestrais. Não é por outra razão que contas nacionais em toda parte são sempre elaboradas em base trimestral, como acontece também com o nosso IBGE. O que então pode ser concluído quando os dados do IBC-BR são transformados por média para uma base trimestral? Se compararmos o trimestre composto pelos meses de março a maio de 2013 com o mesmo período de 2012 obtemos uma variação de 3,74%. Podemos notar também que ao longo do ano essa variação em doze meses calculada para grupos sucessivos de três meses só aumentou: 1,55% até janeiro. 1,71% até fevereiro, 2,86% até março, 3,5% até abril e 3,74% até maio.

Para calcular a variação em doze meses do segundo trimestre de 2013 precisaremos ter também uma estimativa para o IBC-BR de junho. Para ser bem conservador, vamos admitir que o número de junho fique 2,5% abaixo do número de maio, repetindo um comportamento observado em 2012. Isto significa um número de junho 5,6% abaixo do de abril. Nesse caso a variação em doze meses para o PIB do segundo trimestre será de 3,95%. Ou seja, parece grande a probabilidade de que a taxa de crescimento em quatro trimestres do PIB do segundo trimestre fique muito próxima de 4%.

Se isso for também confirmado pelo IBGE (e é difícil imaginar porque não seria), poderemos estar falando de uma variação trimestral na serie com ajuste sazonal do PIB superior a 1%, talvez até próxima de 1,5%. Vai ser bem mais difícil sustentar o pessimismo quando esses números forem publicados em agosto. Ainda assim, é importante insistir de imediato numa leitura mais precisa dos dados da economia. Afinal ninguém pode razoavelmente desejar que o pessimismo de hoje venha a afetar negativamente decisões empresariais de produzir e investir, comprometendo nosso crescimento futuro.

Francisco Lafaiete Lopes

Fonte: Valor

terça-feira, 16 de julho de 2013

Constanze Stelzenmüller: The Gestapo and the Stasi taught Germans a hard lesson

Ah, German hypocrisy! During the cold war, you marched waving “Ami, Go Home” placards, but still let us protect you against the Soviets. Now you moan self-righteously about the National Security Agency and GCHQ reading your emails and listening to your mobile phone. You don’t acknowledge that – unlike the US or the UK – you have had no domestic terror attack in the past 10 years. That’s because we gave you information to prevent them; guess where we got it? Anyway, your Federal Intelligence Service snoops as much as it can. Except it can’t do that much. Whereas we – oh yes, we scan! Could it be that you’re jealous?
That about sums up the American and British response to the uproar about alleged US and UK spying activities in Germany revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Sorry, friends: things are not that simple. This topic touches on historical sensitivities here. Our grandparents’ generation feared the early-morning knock of the Gestapo. During the cold war, West and East Germans alike were aware that their divided country was crawling with spooks of all denominations. We recognised that mutually assured espionage helped prop up the bipolar balance of power. (It also made for some superb spy thrillers.) Still, no one misses the sombre paranoia, reinforced in and after the 1970s by the ramping up of West Germany’s domestic intelligence services in response to homegrown terrorism.
Germans who were born east of the Berlin Wall were careful to give the organs of the Staatssicherheit a wide berth. But it was only after the fall of the Wall in 1989, when the citizens who had brought down their government stormed the secret police’s headquarters and realised the full horror of the web woven by the Stasi: neighbours spying on neighbours; husbands spying on wives. Joachim Gauck, our current president, was the first head of the Stasi Archives, the government agency that, 20 years on, continues to painstakingly piece together a full record of East Germany’s surveillance of its citizens.
Yes, we Germans have better cause than many of our allies to abhor the secret state. It’s why we don’t like closed-circuit television cameras. It’s also why our constitutional court enshrined a fundamental right of data privacy, and declared it illegal for Germany to implement an EU directive on preventive data storage.
That said, we understand that our liberal societies have enemies – and we need some surveillance to protect ourselves and preserve our way of life. We remember that some of the September 11 attackers were based in Hamburg. Like you, we’ve done a lot since then to improve our domestic intelligence capabilities. We haven’t heard many complaints about our ability to co-operate, whether in Europe or in Afghanistan. And, fair enough, this story has become fodder for an opposition desperate to unseat a seemingly unbeatable chancellor. Rattled at first, Angela Merkel snapped: “Friends don’t treat each other like this.” Now, with her standing in the polls unharmed, Ms Merkel is calling for an EU-wide data privacy initiative.
The truth of Mr Snowden’s allegations has yet to be proved; they remain disturbing. Germany a target on the level of Iraq and Afghanistan? 500m intercepts a month? Embassies and EU representations bugged? You could try harder to dispel our misgivings. For all we know, no abuse of power was involved. But it is surely clear the intelligence services wield an excess of power. And, as we know, “power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
It is not always easy to understand where our British friends draw the line between freedom and security. But it was Barack Obama who vowed on May 23 to end the war on terror, quoting James Madison: “No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of perpetual warfare.”
Tell us about it. The phrase “perpetual warfare” reminds Germans that the most influential theorist of war without end – and of an untrammelled executive – was Carl Schmitt, Hitler’s lawyer-in-chief. It’s time for all of us to turn back the tide of executive power.

Constanze Stelzenmüller is a senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund

segunda-feira, 15 de julho de 2013

Adam Posen: After Bernanke, make unconventional policy the norm

Discussion of Ben Bernanke’s possible successor has focused on who could best manage the US Federal Reserve’s eventual exit from its multiyear monetary expansion. While President Barack Obama should take that into account, what he should really be looking for in the next chairman is someone who can institutionalise a new policy approach at the central bank and get congressional agreement for doing so.
Like it or not, when Mr Bernanke steps down in January, his replacement will have to make unconventional monetary policy conventional, and establish a viable oversight framework for doing so.
The great lesson of the financial crisis for monetary policy is that there is no one interest rate that determines or even represents credit conditions in the modern economy. For the past 30 years, both monetary economics and policy making have made the comforting assumption that movements in the central bank’s main policy interest rate would affect the whole economy in a predictable way. This allowed academic and market analysts to try to explain central bank behaviour in terms of simple rules.
More important, it allowed central bankers to maintain the fiction that – because decisions were cast in terms of a public sector interest rate, and the whole economy rather than specific sectors – their policies did not have different impacts on different groups, such as bondholders and the unemployed. Combined with the lucky outcomes of the Great Moderation – that quarter-century of reasonable growth and low inflation starting in 1984 – this gave the illusion of relatively precise control of inflation and growth outcomes through monetary policy.
Recent events show the more complex reality of how monetary policy is transmitted to the whole economy, as opposed to just bond markets. In the euro area, low interest rates and commitments to government bond market intervention are failing to improve credit conditions for small and medium-sized businesses across southern Europe. In China, Hong Kong and Turkey, attempts to constrain property lending booms have required targeted measures as well as rate rises. In the US, the Fed’s purchases of mortgage-backed securities have done more to promote a housing-led recovery than buying long-dated Treasuries could ever have done.
At the same time, increased market volatility has been attributed successively to the Bank of Japan, the Fed and the People’s Bank of China. This reveals the coarseness
of central bank control of economic outcomes, or even the direct effects of monetary policy. If you want to start raising inflation expectations, as is necessary in Japan, you have to accept volatility at the short end of the yield curve. If you want to cut off property speculation, as is necessary in China, you have to accept that doing so requires disrupting cosy lending relationships.
If America’s rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee wants to use its main rate instrument to prevent bubbles – and therefore take into account factors beyond inflation and unemployment, which is all it is mandated to do – it has to accept there will be tighter monetary conditions more generally. These limitations and trade-offs are not a temporary result of quantitative easing; they are the economic reality, and will persist. Even though they are motivated by the benefits to the overall economy , these policy decisions do affect different economic interests in society differentially, as monetary policy has always done – though not so visibly.
So perhaps the new Fed chief’s main challenge will be to design and institutionalise a set of tools for more targeted interventions in public and private credit markets.
This will be intellectually and operationally difficult, as it is for all central banks. We know the need for such tools but do not yet know what works. For the Fed, the additional challenge is that Congress has been busy limiting its powers since the crisis began, particularly regarding which assets the bank may purchase. It is sheer luck that purchases of mortgage-backed securities were still allowed and happened to be the right thing to buy to deal with the mortgage crisis. If the next crisis comes in money market mutual funds or local banks’ capital, the US economy may not be so fortunate.
Public debate has also been allowed for too long to stigmatise “unconventional” monetary policy, and wax nostalgic for the days of a simpler Fed mission. The Fed has, perhaps understandably, let this happen for fear of provoking further political interference. But such defensiveness and self-limitation is based on a mischaracterisation of the past and creates a dangerous vulnerability for the US economy.
For centuries, central banks bought and sold private sector assets. Even when they did so less, in the past couple of decades, their monetary policies had distributive effects. The next Fed chair has to confront this reality rather than run from it, and win powers that other central banks rightly exercise today.

Adam Posen is president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics

Fonte: FT

sexta-feira, 12 de julho de 2013

Roula Khalaf: Egypt’s unravelling threatens the democratic experiment

o the surprise of the rebellious youth of Tahrir Square, Egypt’s military issued a constitutional declaration this week without bothering to consult them.
Days after the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist president, the military decreed that his interim successor would have vast powers, appointees would draft constitutional amendments, and the country would be rushed into a seemingly unrealistic schedule of elections.
Observers might be forgiven for concluding that, as Egypt’s first democratic experiment unravels, the role of the leading protagonists in the drama of state-building has been reversed. Mr Morsi was criticised for ignoring the necessity for consensus, excluding others and trying to muzzle journalists. He has been replaced by military authorities that are – for now, at least – ignoring the need for consensus, excluding others and muzzling journalists, not to mention using excessive force against Islamist protesters.
The wider impact of this should not be underestimated. In less than two weeks, the Arab world’s most populous country has been rocked by a political earthquake so powerful it has shaken the whole of the Middle East. The coup in Cairo threatens to bring down with it the political transition launched in the wake of the 2011 revolts across the region.
Mr Morsi and his colleagues from the Muslim Brotherhood have been detained and the anti-Islamist propaganda and judiciary machines unleashed. Retired generals and policemen, all thought to be part of the old regime of Hosni Mubarak, are now paraded on television screens as strategic analysts.
No one doubts that Mr Morsi’s one-year presidency was disastrous. But it now falls to the coalition of youth and anti-Islamists to ensure Egypt takes a step forward rather than slipping back into authoritarianism.
In contrast to the cohesive rebellion of 2011, the downfall of Mr Morsi comes as Egyptian society is torn apart, its political and ideological divisions becoming so entrenched that emotions are replacing rationality.
The overthrow of a democratically elected yet incompetent Islamist president is obviously a damning indictment of political Islam and its transition from opposition movement to government.
But it is also a harsh shock to the Arab transformation. The intensity of the setback can be seen in the triumphant reaction of Saudi Arabia, the chief protector of the old autocratic order. Riyadh’s take on the coup is that it has rescued Egypt from a “dark tunnel”, to quote King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch. Even more telling was that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, a dictator battling a two-year revolt, should end up calling on Mr Morsi to resign.
Yet even before Egypt’s upheaval the Arab world’s hopes of building a new democratic political order had been disappointed by spreading instability. Syria is disintegrating under the weight of a civil war that could drag on for years, with Gulf rivals such as Saudi Arabia settling scores with Iran on the battlefields.
Libya is smothered by unruly militias that are defying the legitimacy of the state. Iraq’s sectarian violence is surging; and Lebanon is teetering on the brink of its own Sunni-Shia conflict. Only tiny Tunisia, and perhaps also impoverished Yemen, is moving forward – painfully.
For a trace of optimism today, you have to look beyond the Arab world to of all places Iran, where, more than three decades after the Islamic revolution, a new and more pragmatic president, Hassan Rohani, has just been elected.
So pervasive is the turmoil that some in the region are thinking the unthinkable: when the dust settles, will the borders of the modern Arab world drawn by French and British powers after the first world war survive the sectarian tensions?
Into the mayhem have stepped the radicals, the Sunni jihadis whose narrative was defeated two years ago by the massed youth who mesmerised the world with peaceful protests. Now, from Libya to Syria, the jihadis are exploiting the disorder to reassert themselves.
Is this the end of the so-called Arab spring? Probably not.
Revolutions produce chaos long before stability and new tyranny before democracy. Change in the Arab world, with its tumultuous colonial history and its cultural and ethnic complexities, was never likely to follow a straight path.
In this region, since the lid of authoritarianism has been lifted, political struggles have played out not over social or economic programmes but over identity and the role of religion. Battle lines have been drawn, and they have pitted Islamist against liberal in homogeneous societies, and one sect against another in multi-ethnic countries. The new order, albeit more democratic, will remain febrile unless the common goal of building a nation transcends identity allegiances.
It is worth remembering, however, that the revolutions erupted against a backdrop of weak, failing economies – and political transitions have received only a trickle of international financial support. The expectations of the young of economic empowerment have been thwarted as unemployment has soared, and living conditions deteriorated. Unlike eastern Europe, Arab countries have not benefited from the political model, the economic anchor or the prospect of integration offered by the EU.
Most of the oil-rich Gulf states that this week pledged $12bn to reward military action against Mr Morsi saw the uprisings of 2011 as an existential threat. In Egypt today, the post-Mubarak era has been reset to the Gulf’s liking, with the army resuming its central role, and in alliance with liberal and leftists groups. Its chances of moving backwards, towards a controlled pluralism, appear greater than the prospects of a flourishing liberal democracy. It is up to the youth and the liberals to demonstrate otherwise.

Roula Khalaf

Fonte: FT

quinta-feira, 11 de julho de 2013

Niall Ferguson: Merkel’s ‘deutsche Michel’ ploy is bad economics

Is Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, a female reincarnation of the “deutsche Michel”? Back in the 1840s cartoonists portrayed Germany’s everyman answer to John Bull as the victim of unscrupulous neighbours, who picked his pockets and stole the shirt off his back. It has been interesting to see the revival of this pre-Bismarckian self-image in the recent discussions about the causes and consequences of the eurozone crisis.
According to German economists such as Hans-Werner Sinn, the crisis has a simple explanation. While the virtuous German Michel toiled away, reforming his jobs market and controlling his unit labour costs, less scrupulous peripheral countries became uncompetitive by gorging themselves on cheap euro credit. When the crisis struck, the European Central Bank and other EU agencies sought to bail out the peripheral countries at the expense of the savers and taxpayers of the “core” – also known as the German Michel.
This narrative has popular appeal. Most Germans agree with Mr Sinn when he says “the new currency was conceived as a unit of account for economic exchange that would not have any wealth implications at all”. They share his view the peripheral countries need to do what Germany did after 2003 – reduce their price levels and regain competitiveness through domestic deflation.
But this argument is simply not credible. It rewrites history by pretending that the project for a single currency did not have fiscal implications from the outset. It understates how much “Michel” has gained from the euro and how much he would lose from its collapse. And it condemns southern Europe to a protracted depression that could ultimately destroy the euro.
There is an alternative narrative of the euro to Mr Sinn’s. The German economy in the 1990s was seen by many as the sick man of Europe. The costs of reunification were much higher than anticipated. Germany ran a current account deficit every year between 1991 and 2001. The euro solved these problems. The current account swung into surplus, peaking at 7 per cent of gross domestic product in 2007. The deficits of the other eurozone countries were the flip side of these German surpluses. Germany’s highly leveraged banks financed those deficits by buying the bonds of the peripheral countries.
The crisis of the eurozone did not happen because the southern states failed to enact German-style labour market reforms. The crisis was a transatlantic banking crisis from which the German banks were in no way exempt. Labour market reforms would also have done almost nothing to address the underlying institutional problems that are to blame for diverging competitiveness within the eurozone.
Now Europe is in a desperate mess that simply cannot be solved by deflation on the periphery. The situation in the south is much worse than most Germans realise. Gross debt will top 100 per cent in five states this year. From Ireland to Cyprus there have been drastic contractions in per capita GDP. Unemployment rates are terrifyingly high. This is a toxic mix and one that is politically unsustainable.
What can be done? First, banking union needs to go ahead because the crisis in the sector cannot be solved solely with sovereign backstops. That means a single supervisory mechanism, a European resolution authority and deposit insurance scheme. Secondly, some fiscal integration is needed as otherwise at some point peripheral sovereigns must default wholly or partially. A common eurozone budget is needed; eurobonds can no longer be a taboo.
Europe’s monetary union always implied some measure of fiscal union. Those who signed the Maastricht treaty either should have known it – or knew it and should have admitted it. For there is no example in history of a successful monetary union without at least some fiscal integration.
But in return, there needs to be meaningful structural reform in all eurozone states. The German belief in a quid pro quo is quite right. The illusion was to imagine that such reform could somehow be induced via a fiscal compact – Ms Merkel’s attempt to Germanise the periphery. Not only the US experience but also the German experience is that federalism is more likely to lead to institutional convergence than mere confederation.
A century ago, the German Michel underwent a personality change. One 1913 cartoon showed the brave young Michel in a sailor suit, standing up to the seaside bully John Bull. A year later, the same Michel, now athletic in build and giant in stature, was sweeping aside the Entente armies like dust with his broom.
After 1945, Michel reverted to type: helplessly watching the building of the Berlin Wall, tearfully welcoming its downfall. Now we have come full circle, returning to the Michel of the pre-1848 era, that Biedermeier figure much given to self-pity over the extortion perpetrated against him by his wily neighbours.
That may be good domestic politics. It may even help Ms Merkel secure re-election in September. But it is really terrible economics.

Niall Ferguson is Laurence A Tisch professor of history at Harvard University. This article is an abridged version of his Ludwig Erhard Prize acceptance speech on June 27

quarta-feira, 10 de julho de 2013

Mohamed El-Erian: Enter the sci-fi world of central bank action

In some science fiction movies, humans enter a distorted zone and undergo changes that affect them both in that strange world and in the more traditional one. Well, behavioural change is what happened to the traditional capital structure during its sojourn in the realm of zero-bound interest rates. And the acquired anomalies may be materially tested as interest rates gradually normalise, particularly if global economic growth disappoints again.
In the traditional characterisation of the capital structure, the risk-return mix ranged from secured fixed income obligations (low risk, low return potential), to unsecured bonds, hybrid securities and, of course, equities (high risk, high return potential).

Moreover, the further the two segments were from one another in the capital structure, the lower the correlations between them.
For securities at opposite ends of the capital structure, such as high quality government bonds and equities, the correlations were negative, thus providing for inbuilt risk mitigation for well-diversified asset allocations.
For quite a while, capital structures behaved accordingly. However, things changed in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis as governments and central banks interfered more in the functioning of financial markets.
By choosing where in the capital structure to intervene directly and what to influence, the official sector altered the risk-return characteristics.
In addition, by forcing interest rates to artificially low levels and keeping them there, they changed the distribution of expected returns for individual securities, as well as the risk mitigation characteristics of diversified portfolios.
Initially, the overall impact was generally investor-friendly as prices of many financial assets were pushed higher. The bad news related to what followed.
As a simple illustration, consider the 5-year US Treasury note issued at the end of March. A low coupon and relatively modest yield curve roll-down meant the most investors could reasonably expect at issuance was a total return of 2.7 per cent over the subsequent two-year period.
If, however, five-year rates were to go up by 70 basis points, which in fact they did over the next three months, the bond was already 3.25 per cent under water (as of the June 25 close), altering the risk/return outlook.
Such initially asymmetrical return distributions were amplified as investors ventured further out on the yield curve and took on greater credit and liquidity risks. For example, Apple’s 30-year bond issued at the end of April came at a yield of 3.88 per cent. With the subsequent repricing of both interest rate and credit risk, the bond was down 12 per cent at quarter end.
The explanation for this asymmetrical distribution was simple: the closer interest rates and credit spreads got to the zero-bound, the smaller the upside and the greater the downside. This dynamic was exaggerated when securities were artificially compressed by experimental central bank policy.
Under these circumstances, investors’ perception of the capital structure inverted. A low-yielding government bond with a price essentially capped at par offered limited returns and high price risk. In contrast, equities were seen as providing the potential for large price appreciation, and this lack of price cap compensated for the downside risk.
This zero-bound aberration led some analysts to characterise equities as “safer” than bonds. Some even claimed they were the “new risk-free asset”. And the impact on asset allocation models could be quite dramatic.
In pursuing the investment implications today, investors would be well advised to remember that the postulated “safety” of equities, whether in absolute or relative terms, is state-specific. Absent consistently higher multiples, it works only if corporate revenues and profits increase accordingly and, therefore, if economic growth does not disappoint.
This qualifier is an important one, especially in a world where US growth is still recovering, Europe is in recession, China is slowing and other emerging countries are struggling to navigate fluid global conditions. Also, with policy responses remaining narrow, the past few years of monetary policy experimentation may just have borrowed growth from the future rather than created conditions for incremental expansion.
In sum, the notion of the inverted capital structure is a construct of the abnormal zone near the zero bound. When central bank activity mattered a lot more than fundamental economic activity, perhaps this new logic was not such an anomaly. Now, though, investors are looking at a different outlook; and if economic activity disappoints, inverted capital structures could prove costly illusions.

Mohamed El-Erian is chief executive and co-chief investment officer of Pimco

Fonte: FT

terça-feira, 9 de julho de 2013

Delfim Netto: Afinal, não é o apocalipse fiscal

O Brasil vive um paradoxo. Sua situação fiscal não é tão tranquila quanto sugerem as autoridades e nem tão catastrófica como insistem alguns portadores das virtudes da austeridade. Há muitos anos estamos acumulando desperdícios e escolhendo mal as prioridades, juntamente com um controle laxista da gestão dos recursos públicos.

As últimas informações sobre o déficit público (necessidade de financiamento do setor público) e o seu comportamento dinâmico não revelam, entretanto, tragédia iminente. No acumulado de 12 meses, o déficit nominal foi em maio, de 3% do PIB: gasto com juros de 5% do PIB e superávit primário de 2% do PIB. Desde o Plano Real, como se vê no gráfico, tem sido mantido sob controle e lentamente reduzido.

Mas então por que o paradoxo? Por dois motivos: 1) frequentes lacunas de clara comunicação sobre a ação fiscal; e 2) uma propensão por manobras contábeis tão exóticas quanto inúteis, que lançam dúvidas sobre a qualidade das contas públicas. Quando o voluntarismo da autoridade ignora as reações dos agentes privados, é preciso lembrar-lhe que o faz não por sua conta e risco, mas pelo da economia nacional. Todos concordam que as agências de risco antecipam muito mal o risco, mas ignorá-las é um grave risco! Por uma miserável e desagradável razão: sua opinião influi (e em certa medida controla) o comportamento dos operadores do mercado.

O cálculo do déficit, tanto quanto o da dívida, envolve muitos aspectos contenciosos e - sempre - alguma arbitrariedade. Logo, o que precisamos fazer com rapidez é dar maior transparência à contabilidade pública, para restituir-lhe sólida credibilidade. De nada adiantam truques que transformam dívida em receita para construir imaginários superávits fiscais, ou não registrar adequadamente o montante da dívida.

No fundo, bem no fundo, a coisa é clara: quando o registro é fiel (como exige a moralidade pública), o déficit e a dívida de cada exercício se expressam na identidade estimada com os dados abaixo da linha: déficit no ano T = dívida pública total no fim do ano T, menos a dívida pública total no fim do ano T-1, calculados no regime de competência. Parece óbvio, por exemplo, que no cálculo deve ser incluída a variação dos "restos a pagar" não cancelados no último dia do exercício.

Algumas observações são necessárias: 1) a relação dívida pública líquida/PIB introduz maior arbitrariedade na avaliação da situação fiscal. Gera mais sombra do que luz; 2) não há dúvida sobre a importância da dívida pública tanto para o financiamento de projetos de desenvolvimento de infraestrutura como para o exercício da política monetária. Dizia Alexander Hamilton, que criou as finanças públicas dos EUA, que "uma dívida pública não excessiva será para nós uma benção", o que lembra que a natureza da dívida pública é oposta à da privada.

A situação da relação dívida bruta/PIB no Brasil já não era confortável em 2008: era quase duas vezes a dos países emergentes. Com relação à dívida líquida/PIB, é visível que a mudança do seu comportamento está ligada à arbitrariedade da sua classificação a partir de 2008, o que lhe tira a importância. O desconforto se acentua quando lembramos que nossa dívida bruta/PIB já estava, em 2012, no mesmo nível da alemã e francesa antes da crise do Lehman Brothers. A despeito disso, é ridículo supor que estamos às vésperas do apocalipse fiscal.

A dinâmica do déficit nominal e da relação dívida bruta/PIB depende da evolução da conjuntura econômica. A receita tende a variar na mesma direção do PIB e do emprego. Parte da despesa tende a variar no sentido inverso, o que mostra que os efeitos do déficit fiscal precisam ser julgados à luz da conjuntura. Basicamente, quando, por qualquer motivo (não desejado pelas autoridades econômicas), a demanda privada é insuficiente para manter o pleno uso do mais escasso dos fatores de produção, nada mais natural do que suprir essa insuficiência com um aumento da demanda pública, através de um aumento do déficit fiscal. Por outro lado, quando não existem fatores de produção na proporção adequada e o excesso de demanda global se dissipa em inflação e em déficit em conta corrente, a solução é reduzir o déficit fiscal para cortar a demanda pública.

Começamos agora a namorar com o déficit estrutural. Levado a sério demais poderá também dar lugar a exercícios de alquimia. Eles exigem a estimação de parâmetros metafísicos: o "produto potencial" e as elasticidades de receita e despesas com relação ao PIB. Esses estão longe de serem estáveis e estimáveis e perto de serem fixados discricionariamente. Por que não ficamos no arroz e feijão bem feito?

Antonio Delfim Netto

segunda-feira, 8 de julho de 2013

Gideon Rachman: Freedom and democracy can become enemies

Artigo bem interessante e revelador sobre a relação dos liberais com a democracia em alguns países. O comportamento não é nenhum pouco diferente dos liberais do grande bananão que como àqueles mencionados no artigo, não tinham votos e por isto eram obrigados a recorrer aos militares para derrubar politicos que não eram do grado deles. Essa parece ser a sina de alguns dos liberais em alguns paises: um liberalismo sem povo, uma democracia de fachada.

The words freedom and democracy seem to be yoked together – like gin and tonic or Laurel and Hardy. In the rhetoric of many western politicians, the two words are used almost interchangeably. Promoting his “freedom agenda” in 2003, President George W Bush hailed the “swiftest advance for freedom in the 2,500-year story of democracy”.
But the current political upheavals in Egypt show that freedom and democracy are not always the same thing. They can sometimes be enemies. Egyptian liberals who backed the military coup against President Mohamed Morsi justified their actions because they believed that the Muslim Brotherhood government, although elected, was threatening fundamental freedoms.
It is true that queues for petrol, the rising price of food and the sense that security was breaking down in Egypt were crucial in bringing millions of anti-Morsi demonstrators on to the streets.
But it is also true that key members of the Egyptian liberal movement were enthusiastic supporters of the ouster of an elected government. The liberals argued that Mr Morsi and the Brotherhood were riding roughshod over the courts, intimidating the media, failing to protect the rights of women and minorities, and introducing an increasingly Islamist tone to public life – with the promise of more to come. The fear was that the very democratic freedoms that had given the Muslim Brotherhood its chance could not be guaranteed under the rule of a party that ultimately believes that it gets its instructions and authority from God – not the voters.
The Egyptian problem is not unique. In Turkey, secular liberals have been demonstrating against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development party, or AKP. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr Erdogan can point to a record of solid, economic success. And yet some of the complaints of the Istanbul demonstrators are similar to those heard in Cairo. They accuse the Turkish government of eroding civil liberties, undermining the courts, intimidating journalists and supporting a creeping Islamisation that threatens the freedoms of secular Turks – whether it is the right to drink beer or to dress “immodestly”.
Like the Brotherhood, the AKP in Turkey has responded to the complaints of liberals by pointing to its electoral mandate.
It is tempting for outsiders to assume that this clash between democracy and freedom is a problem unique to Muslim countries with Islamist political parties. But that is not true. In Sri Lanka at the moment, an elected government is busily undermining the independence of the courts and the freedom of the press. And, in recent years, popular demonstrations against the illiberal acts of an elected government have also been witnessed in Moscow and in Bangkok.
In Russia, Thailand, Turkey and Egypt part of the problem seems to be the gap between a relatively affluent and educated urban elite that finds itself outvoted by the rest of the country – albeit with some ballot-rigging in the Russian case. Once in power, an elected populist with authoritarian instincts – such as President Vladimir Putin or Mr Erdogan – can trample on freedoms cherished by the urban middle-classes, while appealing to the “real” nation, out in the small towns or countryside.
Such actions undermine the common western assumption that the basis for all other freedoms is the vote. In fact, the west’s own history suggests that the vote can be the last freedom that is won – not the first.
In Britain, respect for the independence of the courts and the freedom of the press were largely established by the 18th century. But it was not until 1928 that all men and women over the age of 21 were guaranteed the vote. Throughout the Victorian era, it was conventional wisdom that basic levels of property and education were necessary before a citizen should be allowed to vote. When the franchise was widened in 1867, one British Conservative argued that school reform must now be an urgent priority, remarking gloomily – “we must educate our masters”.
Such thinking is now regarded as antiquated and indefensible in the west. But it may strike a chord with the emerging middle classes in much of the developing world. Western commentators have long predicted that a rising Chinese middle class would demand democracy. But, in fact, many affluent Chinese seem to fear that “chaos” would be unleashed if the peasantry were given an equal voice in the running of the country.
Egyptian liberals, who are living with the effects of mass democracy in a society where about 40 per cent of the electorate is illiterate, might sympathise. Given the influence of the mosques and religious television channels, Egypt’s poor are likely to continue voting for Islamist parties – if they are given the chance.
Yet while the case of Egypt suggests that democracy can, on occasion, undermine other cherished freedoms, events in Cairo are also demonstrating that it is impossible to have a “liberal coup”. Once you overthrow an elected government you are in the business of repression. And that means censorship, rounding up political opponents and, quite often, shooting people in the streets. Democracy and freedom are not the same thing. But overthrowing a democracy tends to lead to the same, sad destination.

Gideon Rachman

Fonte: FT